For fetuses with increased risk for heart abnormalities, a fetal echocardiogram is performed to assess fetal cardiac anatomy and function. Fetal echocardiography can provide high-quality images of your child’s heart to determine presence of congenital heart diseases. Fetal arrhythmias, a major cause of fetal morbidity and mortality, can also be evaluated by fetal echocardiography.
Throughout the pregnancy, we will work as a multi-disciplinary team with obstetricians, maternal fetal medicine specialists, family doctors and/or midwives to ensure the best outcome for your baby. Early fetal detection allows for prenatal planning, education, recommendations for delivery location, and expedient management after delivery.
Fetal Echocardiography Q & A
What is fetal echocardiography?
Fetal echocardiography is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that uses ultrasound waves to image your baby’s heart while you are pregnant. The ideal timing of visualizing fetal hearts is after ~ 20 weeks gestation. The fetal echocardiogram allows your pediatric cardiologist to examine the anatomy, function, and blood flow in your baby’s heart to evaluate for congenital heart disease and/or rhythm abnormalities.
When is fetal echocardiography needed?
Your maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialist, general OB/GYN, family doctor, and/or midwife may recommend a fetal echocardiogram if they have concerns about your baby’s heart. During standard prenatal evaluation, a routine sonogram provides basic views of your child’s heart.
Your provider can order a fetal echocardiogram to get a more definitive picture of the heart, if the initial fetal ultrasound were inconclusive. Your provider may also recommend a fetal echocardiogram for the following concerns:
- Your baby has an abnormal heart rhythm
- You have a family history of congenital heart disease
- You have been exposed to a teratogen which may cause abnormalities in your baby's cardiac development - such as prescription medications, drugs, alcohol while pregnant
- Your baby has an abnormality that may be associated with an increased risk of heart problems In-vitro fertilization or multiple gestation pregnancies
- Mothers with certain medical conditions such as diabetes or an autoimmune disease have an increased risk for congenital heart disease and/or rhythm abnormalities
What should I expect during a fetal echocardiogram procedure?
The fetal echocardiogram is an ultrasound, which takes specialized images of the fetal heart. It is very much like the routine OB ultrasound done at the MFM/OB office.
It is a very safe procedure, and it does not cause pain to mom or baby. The procedure typically takes 30-60 minutes to complete. During the fetal echocardiogram, special gel is applied to your abdomen. The ultrasound transducer is used to acquire images of your baby's heart.
After the fetal echocardiogram, your cardiologist reviews all the images, and discusses the results and plan with you on the same day. If there were concerns that your unborn child may have a heart condition, we can develop the optimal plan to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
As a result of your fetal echocardiogram, changes in the delivery location or recommendations for immediate intervention may be made.
Dr. Su has been working with OB / MFM specialists and performing fetal echocardiograms in the Salt Lake City /Provo region for the past 16 years.